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Letter to The Honorable Cynthia L. Quarterman, Administrator, United States Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration


Location: Washington, DC

Stabenow, Levin Question U.S. Department of Transportation on Enbridge Oil Spill in Talmadge Creek

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, both D-Mich., today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regarding the July oil spill in Talmadge Creek. The text of the letter follows:

Dear Administrator Quarterman:

We are writing in regard to the oil spill of over one million gallons of oil into Michigan's Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River from a ruptured pipeline owned by Enbridge, Incorporated. We understand that your August 10 rejection of Enbridge's August 9 Restart Plan was based on the need for an adequate restart plan based on safety. We ask that you continue to prioritize safety when reviewing any modified restart plan submissions by Enbridge. All precautions should be taken into account to ensure that any reopening of this pipeline begin only when the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is fully confident that the line restart can be done in a safe manner.

The Department of Transportation's National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating the cause of the ruptured pipe. On August 7, the broken pipe was extracted from the spill site so that it could be tested at the NTSB labs in Virginia. The NTSB investigation is expected to take about 12 to 18 months to complete. This investigation is especially important in light of the fact that PHMSA has issued a number of warnings, correction action orders, and violations to Enbridge over the past several months, relating to pipeline matters. Given these facts, we ask that you provide us answers to these questions:

* In reviewing Enbridge's Restart Plan for Line 6B, how will PHMSA take into consideration Enbridge's overall safety record when determining whether this line should be put back into service?
* How can PHMSA approve a restart plan for the ruptured line when the cause of the leak has not yet been determined and may not be found for another 12 to 18 months?
* How can PHMSA assure us and the public that other parts of the pipeline may not have similar problems which could result in another leak, and how does the status of other sections of the pipeline fit into the assessment of future restart plans?

We appreciate your attention to our concerns, and look forward to your prompt reply. Thank you.

Debbie Stabenow
Carl Levin

cc: The Honorable Jennifer Granholm, Governor, State of Michigan
The Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation
The Honorable Deborah A.P. Hersman, Chairman, NTSB

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